A Room of One’s Own (With a Roommate, Or Two.) – Zibia Bardin

This is the first piece in a spotlight on trans, non-binary, and woman writers at Barnard. The series will explore their writing process as well as their creative space, their take on popular culture, and their experiences at Barnard.

But for women, I thought, looking at the empty shelves, these difficulties were infinitely more formidable. In the first place, to have a room of her own, let alone a quiet room or a soundproof room, was out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble, even up to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since her pin money, which depended on the goodwill of her father, was only enough to keep her clothed, she was debarred from such alleviations as came even to Keats or Tennyson or Carlyle, all poor men, from a walking tour, a little journey to France, from the separate lodging which, even if it were miserable enough, sheltered them from the claims and tyrannies of their families. Such material difficulties were formidable; but much worse were the immaterial. The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case not indifference but hostility. The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing? -Virginia Woolf

Zibia Bardin (she/they, BC ’25) is easy to imagine as a writer. A quick search of her name shows a piece she wrote for The Blue and White, Columbia’s literary magazine – Bardin writes like she talks; assertive, thoughtful, and straightforward. Her piece, New York, New York flows easily from narrative to a kind of quick poetry that takes shape before you can catch up to her witty, vivid prose. 

Here’s this diner exactly like all the other diners except this was the one I went to after prom—nothing special happened here at all on that night, we sat down, I think you had an omelette, I asked what stop we were taking the 3 to, you said Hoyt, we sat in silence, a group of squash players we knew came in, you said hello, I did not, the church across the street sat there and stared at us, you laughed at something I said, some cruel comment about some vulnerable someone as I was prone to making at the time, and somehow I still have to concede that the love I had for you, that place, that time, was real. And it is by virtue of that fact that I find myself provoked by corners and restaurants and delis, the very color of the sidewalks. (From New York, New York by Zibia Bardin).

Bardin’s  creative space holds much of the same quality as their writing; it is carefully laid out, well-put together and evocative of freedom, emotion, and deep thought. Bardin  explains their decorating process. “I keep the walls pretty bare, it gives me space to think,” she says, gesturing at a cream-colored wall, bathed in sunlight – it has a couple items affixed to it; brightly colored tarot cards, grocery lists in tilted cursive on torn-out notebook pages, children’s drawings paired with sweet notes. 

Bardin  went to a small school in Brooklyn, where, in kindergarten, they started in their poetic pursuits. “We had a teacher, and we got up in front of him and just said whatever we wanted. He wrote it down and put it on the wall, and I think that was really affirming, just for whatever I said in that moment to be called poetry.”

Bardin’s room bears signs of regular artistic activity; a pigment-stained cutting mat on the desk, drawings and notes pinned to the wall, books stacked by the bed, a red and green journal lying, recently used, on a footstool. It is a beautiful, functional space – “something I really appreciate about this room is that it’s really wide,” Bardin says. “So being able to have a desk, a chair where I can sit and read, and a space where I can see all of my clothes. I actually really like not having a closet, I like the rack. I feel like getting dressed is a ritual – like, this morning, I had a different outfit on, it was too cold for that and I feel like when I got changed, that’s when my day really started.” Bardin’s other decorative pieces: a collage their sister made, a painting from an aunt, a series of hyperrealistic drawings a friend gifted her. “Every item in here is kind of a placeholder for the people I love.”

As Bardin shows me around, they tell me about another one of their written works. “I wrote a piece for The Blue and White on sexual assault, and I had people reach out to me afterwards, telling me that it was important to them and it resonated. That’s the best thing ever, what more could I ask for? If my writing can be affirming for someone, then I’ve done what I wanted to do.” says it was a difficult piece to work through: “It was trying to get people talking and thinking about this subject that isn’t so easy to access publicly.” I ask if it’s ever scary to put out so much of their internal dialogue into the world. “No, I control what you see. And writing, I think there’s this Gertrude Stein quote, writing is for yourself and strangers. I’m probably misquoting her, but I think that’s true. I write for myself, and to reach a stranger.”

I ask about the development of their style, and how their creativity shows up there – the conversation segues into a meditative reflection on experiencing emotion. 

ZB: When I was in high school, I was really into getting designer items for cheap. I went to Beacon’s Closet a lot, which was a pretty popular vintage store then but it hadn’t been on Tiktok. I feel like TikTok has lowkey exploited everything in New York City.

Author: How do you feel about TikTok? 

ZB: I hate TikTok.

Author: Do you have a TikTok? 

ZB: No. 

Author: Will you ever?

ZB: No. 

Author: Say more.

ZB: I hate TikTok. I think it’s really scary to see people consuming images every second. 

Author: What do you do when you get bored?

ZB: Look out the window. 

Author: What do you do when you get bored of that? 

ZB: Think about my life. […] You let yourself feel sad, and then you wait for something to distract you. Let yourself experience it. 

It seems logical that Bardin might not engage with TikTok – her style is very distinctive. She tells me she envisions a character when she gets dressed in the morning. “Today, I wanted to look like a dancer going out for dinner after rehearsal.” It works – they wear grayish- black washed cloth pants with gray lace trim peeking out at the waistband, a flowy, off-shoulder brown baby tee and casual, beat-up sneakers. Fit is key to them – “I try not to buy things that I think don’t quite suit me. And obviously comfort. How you feel is a much bigger determiner of how you look than what you’re actually wearing.”

Some of Bardin’s favorite clothing pieces and the shoes she “lives in.”

Bardin’s mindful attitude seems to extend to wellness practices as well – e they try to run and meditate every day. “Sometimes I’ll go on a run for just 10 minutes, but I’ll still count that,” says Bardin. “With meditation, if I sit down and try to do it, but just think about other things the whole time, I still count it. It matters more that you do it than whether you do it perfectly. I try not to berate myself.”

Writing is deeply personal to Bardin. “I think that artists are really interesting, so you kind of can’t go wrong with anything you ask them. I think it’s always interesting to get to know someone when you read stuff like this. So anything that’s a little weird and personal is gonna be really interesting to read. Even if it’s a little mundane. Like, this morning – the way I wake up sometimes is by putting on music and singing along to it, because it’s one of the only ways I can get out of bed. I’ll put on a song that I know all the lyrics to. This morning it was – oh no, I forget the name.” 

A few moments lost in thought. “It was Everybody’s Talkin” by Harry Nilsson. Any song, I’m really grumpy when I get out of bed, it helps. See, something like that – any way you can get into people’s minds, it’s gonna be good. Writing is such a personal thing. People may have similar answers as to why they write, but finding a way to get under their skin, then it’ll get personal.”

Everybody’s talkin’ at me

I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’

Only the echoes of my mind

People stoppin’, starin’

I can’t see their faces 

Only the shadows of their eyes

I’m goin’ where the sun keeps shinin’

Through the pourin’ rain

Goin’ where the weather suits my clothes

Bankin’ off on the northeast winds 

Sailin’ on summer breeze 

And skippin’ over the ocean like a stone.

“Everybody’s Talkin’”, Harry Nilsson 

Creative spaces say a lot about a person – Bardin’s space was light, airy, and full of intelligent thought. 

If you are interested in reading more of Zibia Bardin’s work, click here.

Photographs By Saasha Gidwani

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